By Stuart Grant with photography by Etienne Fouche
Ferrari, the vision of one man. Cars built to win races or top the pile in style and performance with road-going front engine V12 and V8 engines. All have carried the maker’s name and all have worn the prancing horse shield borrowed from the fighter plane of Francesco Baracca. Well, almost all. Enter the Dino: a bit of a marketing exercise of offering a lower-price entry model into the stable in an attempt to increase sales.
The name Dino, in memory of Enzo’s son Alfredo ‘Dino’ Ferrari (who died aged 24 in 1956 from muscular dystrophy), was first used on the firm’s V6 racing cars of the late 1950s. Appropriate naming, as before his death Alfredo had prompted Enzo to use six-cylinder engines for racing. In road-guise, the name Dino first came into being with the Fiat Dino of 1966. This came about as the Ferrari race outfit needed to homologate a V6 engine to fit in with the Formula 2 race format. New rules required an engine that had a maximum of six cylinders, had to be derived from a production engine and could be found in a road car, homologated as a Gran Tourer, of which at least 500 examples had to be built within 12 months.
With the small Ferrari factory not able to produce the required quotas, a deal was done in early 1965 whereby Fiat would manufacture the engines and install them into a GT car. The result was the front-engined Fiat Dino. The engine, set up for road use by engineer Aurelio Lampredi, was based on the unit said to have been designed by Vittorio Jano, and was peculiar in that it made use of a 65°cylinder bank angle rather than the usual 60. It was good for 160bhp and 163Nm at 6500rpm, and was capable of pushing the Fiat to a maximum speed of 200km/h.
At the time, the recently released six-cylinder Porsche 911 (significantly cheaper than a regular Ferrari offering) was selling well and was good for 148bhp and a top end of 215km/h. Whether this well-priced performance seller was the spur Enzo needed to improve the cashflow with a cheaper product is debatable but suddenly, thanks to his Fiat deal, he had the engine with which to do it.
In 1968 Ferrari, through the Scaglietti manufacturing facility, mid-mounted the Fiat V6 transversely into a flowing body design by Leonardo Fioravanti of Pininfarina and the Dino 206GT sprung to life. It featured a lightweight aluminium body and independent suspension and was the first road car sold by Ferrari to use electronic ignition, disc brakes on all four and to have direct rack-and-pinion steering. Of course the power output was as per the Fiat Dino (even though Ferrari claimed an extra 20hp in the propaganda papers) but thanks to the weight reduction and slippery aerodynamics it could muster a maximum of 235km/h. A total of 152 vehicles were built through 1968 and into 1969, all of which were left-hand drive.
More power! This is what was wanted, and the response came in the form of the 1969 Dino 246GT. The gain in ponies, now 195bhp, came from increasing the capacity to 2418cc (yes, you guessed it, 2.4-litre + six-cylinder = 246). Along with the larger capacity, the notable differences between 206 and 246 were that the engine block was changed from aluminium to cast iron, the wheelbase increased from 2 280mm to 2 340mm and weight increased by 180kg thanks to the cost-saving use of steel body panels (except for the bonnet) instead of the 206’s aluminium. A flush-fitting flap on the left rear side panel and larger-bore twin exhaust pipes also separate the 246 from its 206 predecessor.
The Dino 246GT made its official debut at the Turin Show in November 1969, albeit that production had already begun. By the end of the year, 81 examples were completed. The total of this first-generation 246GT (known as the L Series) finished off at 357 units in October 1970 with the arrival of a lightly revised M Series the same month. While the L Series sported knock-off spinner type wheel nuts, the M wore five-bolt Cromodora alloys. Other updates included the ‘claphands’ windscreen-wipers, an internal rear boot lid release catch, seat-mounted headrests, the move from Girling to ATE brakes, detail changes to the engine and gearbox and chassis tweaks that saw a 30mm wider track. It was also the first time a right-hand-drive version was made for the British market.
An M Series 246GT that was tested by the UK-based Motor in 1971 beat the claimed top speed of 235km/h by 3km/h and recorded a zero to 80km/h sprint of 5.5 seconds. This put it ahead of the Porsche 911S in performance, but it fell behind in fuel economy (not sure Enzo was that concerned) and pricing – the Porsche retailed at £5 211 and the 246GT at £5 485.
Regardless of this, the Dino pushed on with improvements and M production was cut short, ending with a total of 507 cars in July 1971 when the third Dino variant, the E Series, arrived. Production of this iteration ran through to 1974 (1 431 coupés and 1 274 GTS Targa tops) and again the engine and gearbox were slightly worked. Visual changes included the windscreen wiper parking arrangement moving from central to the right on LHD versions (RHD examples stayed central), the door lock barrels moved from within the scallop to below it, quarter bumpers finished short of the grille opening, the front cooling ducts changed from rectangular openings to circular items and the rear number plate light changed to a chrome rectangular unit on the rear edge of the boot lid.
That brings us to the pictured 246GT, owned by Vic and Gerhard Campher of Tom Campher Motors. Clapping wipers, right-hand drive, five-bolt alloys, seat-mounted headrest and the number plate light mounted low down rather than on the boot lid give it away as one of the 507 M Series cars. You can basically halve that number to get how many of these left the line in right-hand drive.
This rarity is only a small part of why this particular Dino features here though, with the larger part being the restoration that was done. It’s not just the immaculate panel fitment, fit, finish and paintwork done by Carlos de Abreu, one of the finest traditional (Portuguese) panel craftsmen and mechanics with an unsurpassed obsession for detail. It is also the countless hours of research by the Camphers, De Abreu and Australian-based Ferrari expert Sean Brennan that went into ensuring the car is as good as it was the day it left the plant and a true homage to period correctness and accuracy for an M Series. This is no mean feat with a low-volume car, where besides the list of changes between generations listed above, various markets had specific requirements both legally and to suit a discerning buyer’s palate – for example American market cars differed from the Europeans, with vertical instead of flush-mounted indicator lights in the nose and rectangular side marker lights cut into the front and rear wings.
The car has a well-known history in South Africa, having been owned by the late Giorgio Cavalieri, who was the president of the Southern Equitorial Ferrari Automobili Club (SEFAC), so it came with heaps of documents (invoices etc) and a pictorial timeline of the car during club events. These documents revealed a colour swap from the original Dino Rosso paint to a deeper red, the addition of an incorrect ‘FERRARI’ script badge and other updates like a more sporting exhaust.
Intent on putting it right, the restorers tracked down the body colour paint code, and completed the job as per original in 2K paint. The fully rebuilt engine had its cam covers matched to the correct gold magnesium finish and even the sticker on the airbox is as per the day the car rolled off the floor. The homework also revealed other nuances relating to this particular car. For example, only after ordering amber indicator lenses to suit the year and RHD market requirements did they find out that this car for some reason (perhaps all that was left in the parts bin) had clear units when new. They duly ordered the clear ones and boxed the ambers. The costly aftermarket Tubi exhaust was also dumped in favour of an as-per-original item and new carpets and trim items were ordered from Italy. Even the famed mouse hair flocking on the dash looks like it did in the 1971 brochure.
Service manuals, books, toolkit, the jack and even the period-correct warning triangle were investigated and if not correct, rectified. Even the leather upholstery kit came from Luppi Tappezzeria in Italy – the very same outfit that supplied the original 470 Dinos with hide in period.
Simply put, this car is a shining example of what a restoration should be: research, impeccable craftsmanship, research and more research. And it all pays off the moment you swing the delicate handle that opens the door. A circular light illuminates the inside of the door. You drop down into the compact cabin and pull the door shut. It closes with a solid thud (not what is expected from a sports car of this era).
Crank the starter motor and once the trio of Weber carburettors has fed some fuel and air through to the plugs, it bursts into life with a glorious audio mix of the chain-driven twin overhead camshafts doing their job and the slightly lumpy idle acoustic being played out the twin exhaust. Press the clutch, select a gear and the sound overload continues with the chink of the metallic H-gate acting as the triangle in the orchestra. It all gets better as the Veglia gauges (surrounded by brushed aluminium) tell us the fluids are up to temperature and the loud pedal can be pushed that bit further. With fully refurbished suspension and all-new bushings, the 246 soaks up the undulating road without being skittish or jarring but still feels light and nimble. It’s all quite civilised and it’s amazing to see how the engineers managed to create both comfort and responsiveness from the underpinnings.
It is said that Alfredo ‘Dino’ Ferrari was the one who, against his father’s wishes, pushed for development of a mid-engine road car and a series of small twin-cam V6 engines for the Grand Prix circuit. Was Enzo so against the idea that he chose not to put his own name on the car? Perhaps... but what we do know is that one of the most revolutionary and best Ferraris is not really a Ferrari but rather a Dino.